October 1, 2005 3:41 PM PDT

Google in San Francisco: 'Wireless overlord'?

While some people worried about privacy issues, others on Saturday praised Google's proposal to blanket San Francisco with free wireless high-speed Internet access, saying it will help bring fast Web connections to more people in more places for less money than they are paying now.

Google's bid was a response to a request for proposals from San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's office to provide the service for the nearly 750,000 residents of the city, Google spokesman Nate Tyler confirmed on Saturday.

The proposal is limited to San Francisco, and Google does not have any plans to expand it beyond the Bay Area, he said. Google already is testing free wireless Web service in two locations near its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters and is participating in a Wi-Fi hot spot in downtown San Francisco.

It was unclear when city officials would decide whom to choose from a group of bids, but reports said the service is expected to begin next year.

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"It is also an opportunity to make San Francisco a test-ground for new location-based applications and services that enable people to find relevant information exactly when and where they need it," Tyler said. "We anticipate that the services we develop on this network will ultimately benefit end users and Google partners."

That prospect has some people concerned. "They will know much more information about your activities" than they can glean from a stationary PC, Ira Victor, managing partner for security information firm Data Clone Labs, said in an interview.

"There are still a lot of unanswered questions, the most important being related to privacy," wrote blogger Charles Jade on the Ars Technica Web site. "Will Google be watching users? It's unlikely a city like San Francisco with a large contingent of professional protesters and unreconstructed communists would support such a compromise, but we will know shortly."

Many others, however, said Google's involvement will shake up a telecom industry that has been slow to react to the Internet and reluctant to be price-conscious.

"How long before it starts deploying such networks across other major U.S. cities? Kind of turns the ISP model of charging for Internet access on its head. Sure, there will be a market for those who want higher bandwidth but if what is on offer is good enough, why pay for more?" penned blogger Simon Buckle.

"I think this approach will become more common in the future," Buckle said. "We are moving towards a services-based model: The basic offering is free but if you want more, whether it's bandwidth or features, you have to pay for it."

Google could even be making waves in Congress, one blogger speculated.

"Google's move to enter the broadband access market could even impact developments in Congress, which is considering various approaches to a Telecom Act rewrite," wrote Mitch Shapiro on the IP & Democracy Web site. "Among the more contentious issues addressed by various draft bills are network neutrality, municipal broadband and privacy, all of which are raised--and with a somewhat novel twist--by Google's Wi-Fi proposal."

Other bloggers were pleased to hear the service would be free and offer transmission speeds of about 300 kilobits per second, which is much faster than traditional dial-up Internet access.

"300k for free is not bad. The next question is when does this come to other major cities? WTG (way to go) Google!" wrote one blogger on the Make You Go Hmm Web site.

Citizen journalism advocate Dan Gillmor concluded that the benefits outweigh the risks.

"The word 'free' in this context is problematic. Google expects more than incurring costs from this test bed, and it'll be keeping all kinds of data about what people do on the network. (Yes, there's that Google-versus-privacy question again; it just keeps coming up.)," he wrote in his blog.

"Still, the innovation potential--or at least disruption potential--is enormous. I'm looking forward to seeing what Google does with this, especially in connection with its expanding voice offering. Maybe the incumbent telecom biggies, SBC and Comcast, have something to worry about; wouldn't that be great?" Gillmor wrote.

Google is driving innovation, which is good for the industry and consumers, bloggers, in general, agreed.

"Google again is out in front as the most talked about tech company making other tech companies squirm, and I, for one, welcome our new wireless overlords," wrote Ars Technica blogger Jade.

See more CNET content tagged:
blogger, San Francisco, proposal, Google Inc., city

24 comments

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Privacy Issues, pfft
Anyones ISP can simply see what you are doing. Why would it be any different if Google provided WAPs in bay area of San Francisco? Just because they already are a business of a search engine and other tools that track information, offering WAPs shouldn't be a big deal. When ever you are on the internet at any given time your privacy can be compromised by someone, no matter what. People need to grow up and get with the program!
Posted by (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Privacy Issues, pfft
Anyones ISP can simply see what you are doing. Why would it be any different if Google provided WAPs in bay area of San Francisco? Just because they already are a business of a search engine and other tools that track information, offering WAPs shouldn't be a big deal. When ever you are on the internet at any given time your privacy can be compromised by someone, no matter what. People need to grow up and get with the program!
Posted by (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
what privacy? MSN and AOL watch you too
Ever heard of SBC Yahoo? Do you think that Yahoo doesnt have a deal where they find out which websites you visit? Maybe they dont but no one madea big deal out of it. Or maybe its the likes of CNET who are shunned from google that somehow make a story from a story.
But it doesnt bother me. IF google is doing something good and the jerks in the media cry 'privacy', let it be. The people will decide about their own privacy and if they like to have FREE internet or free email service that kicks ars.
Posted by lavacentral (61 comments )
Reply Link Flag
what privacy? MSN and AOL watch you too
Ever heard of SBC Yahoo? Do you think that Yahoo doesnt have a deal where they find out which websites you visit? Maybe they dont but no one madea big deal out of it. Or maybe its the likes of CNET who are shunned from google that somehow make a story from a story.
But it doesnt bother me. IF google is doing something good and the jerks in the media cry 'privacy', let it be. The people will decide about their own privacy and if they like to have FREE internet or free email service that kicks ars.
Posted by lavacentral (61 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This is a badly written article
I'd like to comment on the technical aspects of this article - I'm very disappointed to say that this is one of the worst written articles I've read in a long time. It's basically a compilation of blog snippets with no journalistic strength. I might as well have been reading a personal blog.

I haven't read the author's work before so I'm not sure if this is isolated or a regular aspect of his work, however I've come to expect much more from news.com.
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This is a badly written article
I'd like to comment on the technical aspects of this article - I'm very disappointed to say that this is one of the worst written articles I've read in a long time. It's basically a compilation of blog snippets with no journalistic strength. I might as well have been reading a personal blog.

I haven't read the author's work before so I'm not sure if this is isolated or a regular aspect of his work, however I've come to expect much more from news.com.
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not so worried about Google, but ...
I've always wondered w/ free wi-fi ... if they broadcast in the clear like my mom and pop coffee shop down the street does ... no WEP, no WPA ... what's to prevent someone from snooping your passwords / info?

And if they do require WPA or WEP ... isn't everyone going to need a key so it's all basically open anyway?
Posted by nasser0000 (64 comments )
Reply Link Flag
THe real problem
Isn't privacy, passwords, etc.

The real problem is - businesses are in business to do business (to misquote Richard Prior in Brewsters Millions).

There is no way that Google will offer something for free indefinitely. Ultimately, they will either charge for the service OR leverage the service to make money (perhaps through targeted online advertising).

Not even philathpists like M$ ;-) do something for nothing. Dogs woof, cat's meow & businesses do business - it's what they do.

So - use it while you can. But don't get too attached to it.

P.S. I've been in SF all week on a course & found T-Mobile everywhere from SFO to SoMa (logged on to wired connections from 6 different locations & T-mobile had wireless every time).
Posted by (409 comments )
Link Flag
re: Not so worried about Google, but ...
The same measures that are in effect to reduce the chance of someone from snooping on your personal information when you are connected to any other ISP will also apply. I read Google is going one step further and is planning on providing a secure transmission method to prevent (ahem...reduce the possibility of) snooping. Nothing can be too secure so caveat emptor - it can only be secure enough subject to the needs of law enforcement. (See FCC policy release, Friday, September 30th, 2005)
Posted by (2 comments )
Link Flag
Not so worried about Google, but ...
I've always wondered w/ free wi-fi ... if they broadcast in the clear like my mom and pop coffee shop down the street does ... no WEP, no WPA ... what's to prevent someone from snooping your passwords / info?

And if they do require WPA or WEP ... isn't everyone going to need a key so it's all basically open anyway?
Posted by nasser0000 (64 comments )
Reply Link Flag
THe real problem
Isn't privacy, passwords, etc.

The real problem is - businesses are in business to do business (to misquote Richard Prior in Brewsters Millions).

There is no way that Google will offer something for free indefinitely. Ultimately, they will either charge for the service OR leverage the service to make money (perhaps through targeted online advertising).

Not even philathpists like M$ ;-) do something for nothing. Dogs woof, cat's meow & businesses do business - it's what they do.

So - use it while you can. But don't get too attached to it.

P.S. I've been in SF all week on a course & found T-Mobile everywhere from SFO to SoMa (logged on to wired connections from 6 different locations & T-mobile had wireless every time).
Posted by (409 comments )
Link Flag
re: Not so worried about Google, but ...
The same measures that are in effect to reduce the chance of someone from snooping on your personal information when you are connected to any other ISP will also apply. I read Google is going one step further and is planning on providing a secure transmission method to prevent (ahem...reduce the possibility of) snooping. Nothing can be too secure so caveat emptor - it can only be secure enough subject to the needs of law enforcement. (See FCC policy release, Friday, September 30th, 2005)
Posted by (2 comments )
Link Flag
Privacy concerns is silly
It's silly to be overly concerned about Google and how they will use your info. It's not as though there is not other ISP services available. To Google's credit they are offering a secure service as well. But if people are still concerned they and use a MAC address alias or other means to change their IP. It's going to be great for SF and the US. No more paying high fees for mobile Wifi access.
Posted by rshimizu12 (98 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Privacy concerns is silly
It's silly to be overly concerned about Google and how they will use your info. It's not as though there is not other ISP services available. To Google's credit they are offering a secure service as well. But if people are still concerned they and use a MAC address alias or other means to change their IP. It's going to be great for SF and the US. No more paying high fees for mobile Wifi access.
Posted by rshimizu12 (98 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Pay for privacy
Perhaps the next 'pay' service will be privacy. Free = monitored, pay = private.

AOL 10.0 - now with privacy! ;)
Posted by DraconumPB (229 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Pay for privacy
Perhaps the next 'pay' service will be privacy. Free = monitored, pay = private.

AOL 10.0 - now with privacy! ;)
Posted by DraconumPB (229 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Communists and protestors? PF'NLEEZ!!!
So because SF has a liberal identity, thats somehow supposed to travel over to the real of tech? SF, and its surrounding areas, are WORLD leaders in tech and web innovation. The hippies, or yippies this article refers to, utilize tech. Craigslist is a god over here, and Google is gods father. Gimme a F_ckin break. "Protesting", low income college kids aren't going to like this why?
Posted by jedibratt (18 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Communists and protestors? PF'NLEEZ!!!
So because SF has a liberal identity, thats somehow supposed to travel over to the real of tech? SF, and its surrounding areas, are WORLD leaders in tech and web innovation. The hippies, or yippies this article refers to, utilize tech. Craigslist is a god over here, and Google is gods father. Gimme a F_ckin break. "Protesting", low income college kids aren't going to like this why?
Posted by jedibratt (18 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Google not the only respondent
SF Metro Connect, one of the six respondents to the SF RFP and made up of SeaKay, Cisco Systems and IBM, is proposing a free and open network that will be designed, deployed and maintained as a public benefit network.

Our proposed network will not capture private information and market it or use it in any way. The network will be built on a technologically agnostic platform enabling businesses to sell premium services to unlimited people without interference by proprietary interests.

The network will also be the most sustainable into the future - a technology refresh clause and multiple income streams will keep the network relevant and robust in years to come.

Finally, SF Metro Connect is committed to creating a digital inclusion fund at the San Francisco Foundation and devoting considerable resources to the digital inclusion goals laid out by Mayor Newsom.

Check out our site at: www.seakay.org for more information.
Posted by dseakay (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Google not the only respondent
SF Metro Connect, one of the six respondents to the SF RFP and made up of SeaKay, Cisco Systems and IBM, is proposing a free and open network that will be designed, deployed and maintained as a public benefit network.

Our proposed network will not capture private information and market it or use it in any way. The network will be built on a technologically agnostic platform enabling businesses to sell premium services to unlimited people without interference by proprietary interests.

The network will also be the most sustainable into the future - a technology refresh clause and multiple income streams will keep the network relevant and robust in years to come.

Finally, SF Metro Connect is committed to creating a digital inclusion fund at the San Francisco Foundation and devoting considerable resources to the digital inclusion goals laid out by Mayor Newsom.

Check out our site at: www.seakay.org for more information.
Posted by dseakay (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Free oe cheaper
its about time we stop getting rip off for radio waves would like to do it myself too so if you know anyone who can help with same idea write me
Google great idea

80 dollars a month plus card 300 dollars, for a 20 dollar pc card or free if you buy a 2 year contract
Posted by ronaldjayhoward (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Free oe cheaper
its about time we stop getting rip off for radio waves would like to do it myself too so if you know anyone who can help with same idea write me
Google great idea

80 dollars a month plus card 300 dollars, for a 20 dollar pc card or free if you buy a 2 year contract
Posted by ronaldjayhoward (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Got to be kidding...
Am I reading this correctly?

Google is offering free HS wireless internet for an entire city, and some fool is actually COMPLAINING!??

Its free. Who gives AS if it might have "privacy issues"! maybe they should stop sending their credit cards to porn paysites over it, then.
Posted by adayoldbagel (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Got to be kidding...
Am I reading this correctly?

Google is offering free HS wireless internet for an entire city, and some fool is actually COMPLAINING!??

Its free. Who gives AS if it might have "privacy issues"! maybe they should stop sending their credit cards to porn paysites over it, then.
Posted by adayoldbagel (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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